More than 1,000 people of all ages and cultural backgrounds attended the 69th annual Guam Liberation Celebration on Saturday at the Copperas Cove Civic Center. The Chamorro Association of Central Texas hosted the event.

CACT membership consists of people native to the U.S. territory of Guam and its surrounding islands.

Guam is about 4,000 miles west of Hawaii.

A significant number of Chamorro live in Hawaii, California, Washington, Nevada and Texas.

People from Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and San Antonio attended the event.

The local association has hosted a Guam Liberation Celebration for at least the past 20 years, said Benny Perez, master of ceremonies for the Saturday event.

It’s called the 69th annual celebration because on July 21, 1944, U.S. and Chamorro soldiers fought to liberate Guam from the Japanese Imperial Army. The yearly event recognizes those who lost their lives in battle and celebrates the actual day of liberation, said Arsenio Lovay, CACT public information officer.

“Our celebration today is just like America’s July Fourth celebration but without the fireworks,” Lovay said.

On July 21, people across the island of Guam celebrated, Perez said.

Every liberation ceremony begins with Fatima Novena, a Catholic rosary. Our Lady of Fatima is a title of the Virgin Mary who appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.

Following the rosary was the posting of the colors, presentations of the national anthem and the Guam Hymn, a wreath ceremony honoring those who died during the liberation and the playing of taps.

Lunch was then served. “This is like a giant potluck to which we invite the public and it’s free,” said Tony Lujan, food chairperson.

The menu was filled with variations on ribs, rice dishes, potato salad, desserts and the always popular roasted pig, Lujan said.

Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin attended the event for his second time, he said.

He spoke during the opening ceremony and told the participants that the Killeen area is fortunate to have so many cultures represented.

“The people of Guam paid a great price and I’m proud to be participating in this liberation celebration,” he said.

The schedule for the rest of the day included performances by several dance groups and other entertainers. Door prizes were given away, and a dance was held.

Berty Peredo and her husband, Joan, drove 500 miles from Oklahoma City.

The celebration they normally attend was going to be at Tinker Air Force Base but it was canceled.

People who had relatives in Guam during the tragic times and the liberation shared their stories.

“My mom is from Saipan and my father is from Guam and were occupied by the Japanese,” Berty Peredo said.

Her father worked for the Japanese and his wage was a handful of rice, she said. Her mom would save all the rice until she had enough to cook a full pot so everyone in the family of 11 children would have enough to eat.

“My dad had a Japanese schoolmaster whose son was a bully,” Berty Peredo said. “My dad, on occasion, got the blame for what the bully had done and as punishment was taken out to the schoolyard and with outstretched arms was made to hold a book in each hand.

“If his arms or hands wavered even slightly, he would be beat across the back with a stick,” she said.

Joan Peredo, who is retired military, said it was worth the trip to see family and friends and to be a part of the celebrations they love.

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